Monday, July 30, 2012

Meet Wijnand Boon, Peace-Walker



A week ago, I received an email that caught my attention. "Peace-walker passing through Arles" was the title. "Oh, really?" I thought with a sardonic arch of the eyebrow. But as I continued reading, I was immediately intrigued. It had been sent by Wijnand Boon (pronounced Vine-andt) and after explaining that he had come across my blog while googling Arles, here is how he introduced his mission:

"I have started walking from the Netherlands in September 2010 and I just got back in France after having crossed Portugal and Spain. I am on my way to Cairo in Egypt for a peace organization called MasterPeace (www.masterpeace.org). I find my places to stay along my way through the internet, the mission being to show how the internet can bring people together and that help can be found everywhere. A simple, positive message and I try to share my experiences with as many people as possible."

Wijnand's message was extremely articulate and included links to articles that had been written about his journey as well as to the social media accounts that he uses both to document his experience and solicit aid. He was simply asking if Remi and I would be willing to host him for Friday night, when he estimated that he would be in Arles. After a verification of all of the info (once a journalist, always a journalist) we quickly agreed. And I am so glad that we did.


He arrived in the early evening and after hauling up the fantastically designed cart that holds his belongings, we settled in for a long apéro during which we learned more about him and his fascinating project. He explained that it was initially inspired after a speech by the Dutch Queen Beatrix in which she claimed that the internet was pulling people further apart, that the essence of virtual connections are a detriment to society. Wijnand was determined not only to prove her wrong but decided to go on a pilgrimage using social media to do so. Via Twitter and Facebook, he has reached out to strangers along his route. So far, he has stayed with around 250 families (from sleeping on a mat in a crowded studio to ocean-view mansions) with nary a bad experience in the lot.




A lot of that has to do with Wijnand, of course. He is incredibly charming and well-spoken on so many subjects that at one point I turned to him and asked "is there anything that doesn't interest you?" He is aware that people might be shy or nervous about letting a stranger into their homes and has that magical quality of immediately putting someone at ease. It was a delight listening to his rapid fire political and economic discussions with Remi that took place until long into the night and watching him capture the essence of the Saturday market the next morning. He is never intrusive and was respectful of our schedules and space. As he was recovering from an injury, we were in ready agreement that he stay with us for an extra night, for in truth, while we were providing a roof and dinner, he was giving us just as much if not more in return, including performing a few songs on his guitar.


I have written quite effusively on this blog about the positive and real impact I feel from the contacts that I have made here and Wijnand is literally walking proof of that. It is just that he is taking it to a global level. He is an incredibly inspiring person that embodies the idea that we can make our dreams into reality and even if we don't know what the future holds, we just need to keep going, one step at a time...


Friends, Wijnand is heading East towards Salon-de-Provence on his way towards Rome and then Jerusalem before his swing towards Cairo in time for MasterPeace's International Day of Peace in September 2014. An approximate list of the cities that he will be travelling to can be found here. Would any of you be willing to host him on his journey or do you know anyone that might? And if that doesn't interest you (and he does not put pressure on folks), would you be willing to mention this on either Twitter or Facebook? You can find his links below and his email is twalkwithme@gmail.com.


Wijnand's project is Ben-approved! 


Wijnand Boon:

Check out my website
www.twalkwithme.eu

Follow me on Twitter
@TwalkWithMe

Join me on Facebook
Twalk with me

Twalk with me for MasterPeace
www.masterpeace.org



Help me share my story and complete my mission:

One day of walking costs about five euro's, but you already make my day with a cup of coffee a month. You can support my mission by donating to 3156.17.918. I thank you for your support!

PS You can also help by retweeting on Twitter and share my posts on Facebook with you friends. Help spread the word!



Bonne Route, Wijnand. Here is one for the road...With all our best from Heather, Remi and Ben...


44 comments:

  1. Thanks for your wonderful post that I was waiting for all weekend! Lucky you - I wish I'd been there. I'll spread the word.

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    1. Thank you so much! We know that your stretch of the coast might be a hard sell regarding inviting a stranger so any help you can offer would be great. :)

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  2. Heather,
    This is so cool. I'll share it all of the ways I know how.
    Aidan x

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  3. Thanks so much Aidan! He actually passed through Montpellier!

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  4. Wijnand is doing such a wonderful thing! I love someone who takes a stand for something and follows through to the end. I don't think the internet is pulling people apart just the opposite and blogs prove it in the way we've contacted and made friends with one another all over the world! I'm off to donate to his cause to help him to the end!

    XX
    Debra~

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    1. Thank you so much Debra! I am sure that he will appreciate it! He really is a good guy and his message is so true--how I would love to spend some time with you (and Dylan dog) if only we could. There are wonderful people out there and you are the proof of that!
      xo,
      h

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  5. That is just amazing. Thanks for sharing. What an extraordinary man.

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    1. He really is Loree--I thought of you but he is doing the whole thing on foot, no boats included! Hope you aren't suffering too much from the heat...

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  6. Wonderful post. Social media can make such a positive difference in people's lives. Here's to Wijnand's continuing safe journey.

    Tweeted!

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    1. Ah you are so awesome. This is a guy that you would appreciate so very much of that I am sure. Incredibly engaged socially--obviously--but with a real background of knowledge to back it up. A fascinating experience and I can only imaginge how much longer the evenings would have continued if you were here too...

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  7. Thank you so much for sharing this with us! I have truly loved the way in which the internet and social media has provided so many relationships that I would otherwise not have! This is truly fascinating and I'm so glad it was a great experience for you! I can only imagine all of the stories he was able to share with you!

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    1. Carolyn, you are so right. He had a ton of great stories to share as well as a background to like our stories as well. It was a wonderful exchange. A real pleasure! Thank you for your wonderful response, sending you all my best...
      xo,
      Heather

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  8. Heather,

    What a beautiful post! I only wish that I was on his walking route. He sounds like a lovely and interesting man. I have shared your post on facebook and twitter.

    Thanks you for sharing!

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    1. Merci beacoup Elizabeth! I don't have FB and Twitter accounts so I really am appreciative of your help, especially as I know that your readers will "like" his story as we both have such similar sensibilities. :)

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  9. This is so interesting, quite amazing really the connections and experiences that come from being on the internet, what an intriguing person. Australia is so far away from most, but I find the freedom of being able to talk/read/post over the net helps bridge the gap xxx Debra
    ps I love her hair much more like that too.

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    1. Debra, you have such a wide reach with your audience, it must feel wonderful to connect with like minds all over the world. I know I definitely feel that.
      xo,
      H

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  10. What a cool story. Loved this, Heather. Don't think I will catch a peek of Wijnand from the sailboat any time soon, but I will keep looking-- just in case :-) I love this contraption he walks around with! He sounds like a great guy. Will forward this to my friends! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

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    1. You never know Veronique--dude gets around! Thanks for forwarding.

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  11. Love this. Thanks for sharing. Will tweet, follow, etc!

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    1. Yay, merci Julie! With your contacts, Wijnand could find hosts for a year!

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  12. One more Facebook post for Wijnand! Thank you for bringing us this story of the important, and most difficult, work that he is doing for peace. Beyond inspiring!
    Leslie from Portland

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    1. I agree Leslie. What he is doing seems so against the grain with our contemporary society of "each man for himself" but he is proving it isn't the case...
      Hope all is well for you in Portland.
      xo,
      h

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  13. Hello Heather
    What a life you live. Never a dull moment. Handsome men showing up on your door-step.I'll be serious, how great that your paths crossed with Wijnand's. What a brave man he is. I will be praying for him daily as he walks for the next two years. That is such a long, long journey. I have followed him on FB. I will search my blog to see if someone lives along his path to Cairo.

    Thanks for sharing your weekend. I have no doubt you and, Remi and Ben miss him.

    Helenxx

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    1. We do, Helen. He has such a positive character that it was definitely very quiet around here when he left. And it was an odd situation for Remi and I to be in as when we travel, we are usually the ones to leave. Ben was absolutely over the moon for him and would NOT stop giving him bisous on the day that he left.

      I am sure that Wijnand will appreciate your prayers. Yes, it is such a long journey , so much so that it can be hard to take in. I will be worried when it comes time for him to make his descent towards Egypt as he will either cross Syria or Iraq.

      Thanks again for all of your support. So happy to know you.
      xo,
      Heather

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  14. Heather...you are a dream. I have hopped on the 'Twalk' bandwagon so to speak, fascinated by Wijnand's story and travels. I am now following Wijnand's travels...in all forms of social media. As you well know, each corner we turn, opens doors that we could not imagine. It takes a brave soul to embark on a journey like that...I admire him for his efforts and secretly am quite envious!

    I adore the soundtrack you posted. I was listening to Madeline Peyroux last night...thinking that I needed to find a few new artists for our time in Saigon...this one will be perfect.

    Best wishes Heather and many thanks for staying in touch as we settle in to our new country/home. Always lovely to hear from you.

    Jeanne xx

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    1. Good afternoon Saigon! How I love imagining the thought of Madeline Peyroux's voice wafting through the giant mango...I will email you a list with some other suggestions. :)

      Yes, I am sure that you are already in the process of opening your new doors there but it is true in Wijnand's case he is advancing into the unknown. That he is able to do so with such an open spirit and humor in tact is exceptional, I think. Remi compared his journey to the true expeditions of old, the real explorers. And who wouldn't feel a bit of envious of that!

      Gros bisous et à binetôt,
      h

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  15. It would take a person with a big personality to attempt such a fabulous feat. I bet he was most interesting to talk to!

    And Ben-approved - so he has been "stamped" as good to go. I wonder if he would consider turning it into a round the world trip, to complete the journey? How our little world is changing so quickly, with all the vagaries of communication, and the possibilities it provides. What would Christopher Columbus thought of such a trip? He would have been keen to do the same, if he were in a time machine, no doubt!

    Hugs from down under. xx

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    1. Hugs right back at you, friend. And as always, you hit it perfectly--he does have a big personality and a self-assurance without the ego that is impressive. You would have loved hosting him I know and your family would have hounded him with questions!

      As for around the world, I think not as he is determined to walk every bit of the way. No boats or planes allowed! But who knows...?

      Hope you are well!!

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  16. Great post, thanks so much for sharing. I've just written to him, so who knows? He may visit us here in Rome or up in Umbria.

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    1. Oh hooray Elizabeth, that is very cool of you. I know that he is very excited about his time in Italy--most especially for the food and who can blame him? We did our French best of serving him a mean apero though... :)

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  17. What a beautiful and fascinating project! Thank you for sharing Wijnand's story. I have to admit, I'm also intrigued by his clever rolling cart.

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    1. Hi Ann, his cart is pretty impressive I have to say. He can attach it to a belt around his waist so that the bars are resting by his hands--it takes hardly any effort to pull as long as he is on flat land. I don't remember the name of the company that designed it, only that they are Dutch and that they deliver world-wide.

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  18. Whoa - you didn't say what a hottie he was!!! Thanks so much for this post; not only did I get a little eye candy (ok, that's shallow, but still), but you reminded me of something I really need to hear right now - that we need to go through life one step at a time. That's HUGE! His journey is fascinating and inspiring, and I'm sure he will remember you, Remi, and Ben! (and what great photos - love the one of he and Ben at the market!). Merci, mon soeur!!

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    1. Sister! That made me laugh out loud! Yep, definitely a handsome dude, inside and out. And it is a good reminder for us--not to project too far into the future, just to keep on going...
      Have a great day, Sister. Love you.

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  19. Sent this on to my son who knows people all around the world, I know someone will heed this call. This is my favorite blog post, Heather. It just shows the power we have if we all join together to get something good done. This is wonderful !!

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    1. Thank you so much Marsha! Yes, together we can do so much--you are also proof of that!
      Gros, gros bisous beautiful lady.

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  20. How inspiring! Heather thanks for sharing his story. Living in a city that is experiencing a serious uptick in gun violence has us all on edge and thinking about what we can do as individuals to create better connections, stronger communities and foster understanding. That Mr. Boob is just doing something - putting one foot in front of the other, bother literally and figuratively - is a great example to us all.

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    1. Jeanne, I am so sorry to read that your region is having an upsurge in violence. Please, please stay safe and don't take risks...
      xo,
      h

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  21. What a wonderful illustration of the wonders of the blogosphere! Such a delightful encounter. . .wish we lived close enough to put out the welcome mat and pour a glass of wine!

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    1. And what fantastic hosts you both would be, of that I am sure! If you know of anyone from your many travels who might be of help, don't hesitate to contact him...

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  22. Exactly what the world needs right now, a positive presence like Wijnand. He reminds me of the gentle people I crossed paths with (normally in the forest) when I was living in the Pacific Northwest. It's nice to know that this kind of attitude is still around. Lately I haven't been so sure.

    Thanks for sharing this Heather! : )

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    1. Je t'en prie, Ella. He is the real deal. It was amazing to meet him--like a bolt of energy. I think that we all need reminders of the good in the world right now. Every little bit helps...
      xo,
      H

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  23. How absolutely wonderful of you to host him, and what a very special person he is, I'm quite introverted I don't think I could ever take a stranger in for the night.

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  24. This story is so amazing! How wonderful of you and Remi to host Wijnand. If he was swinging by Australia, we would gladly host him but alas I believe it's a little difficult to "walk" here ;-) I shall tweet his cause anyway.

    ~ Clare x

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